September 17: Constitution Day and Its Significance

By Sosamma Samuel-Burnett J.D.
Founder/President, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…
— The Constitution of the United States

On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention delegates signed a unique and enduring document that stood not only as the framework for the newly formed U.S. government but would endure to be the longest running constitutional democracy in history. The opening preamble in itself framed the most important elements of the document and its purpose:

We the people: This constitutional democracy would be established by the people, and be formed for the people, and its the people that ultimately determine its course and its continuity.

Perfect union:  The union would be far from perfect, especially as seen through the lens of the Civil War.  However, the idea of a republic that is governed by the will of the people was a far better union than the alternative — despotic rule.

Establish justice:  The purpose of the document and the union was to establish not onlys standards of justice, but the appropriate processes to ensure that justice is served.

Ensure tranquility: Peace and freedom from conflict were goals to strive for.
Provide for the common defence: When threats to the security of the people require it, the government will provide a defence that serves the common good.

Promote the general welfare: The government should promote what will ensure the broadest assurance of the well-being of its people versus providing what the people should have the freedom and responsibility to provide themselves.

Ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity:  Liberty is the essential in this governmental system.  But liberty comes also with responsibility — not only to one another but also to the next generation.

As such the Preamble allows us to frame  the important elements that follow in the U.S. Constitution including a republican form where the people elect officials to represent their interests and regions, a federal system that allows for both centralized and state governments, a three branch government including an executive, legislative and judicial branch with checks and balances on each other so that no one branch will abuse their powers or overpower the other branches, a Bill of Rghts (added in 1791) to ensure specific rights and protections for citizens, and other provisions that allow the government to understand its scope and limits as authorized by the people.

These elements and the underlying principles that support them have ensured the U.S. Constitution’s place as arguably the most influential political document in history. It was influenced by the greatest political thinkers but has also influenced a tremendous amount of political thought.  The U.S. Constitution has served as a model for more than 150 other constitutions throughout the world.  And it continues to frame the structure, standards, and processes of our government more than 200 years later.

As we pause today to recognize Constitution Day, certainly the enduring significance of the U.S. Constitution is worthy of reflection in light of the global concerns of despotism, oppression, and persecution that are in direct opposition to the rights, freedoms, and liberty that it embodies.